On the 15th anniversary of 911, I am remembering the day.
Fifteen years ago today, my life was forever altered. Fifteen years ago today, the world that we lived in changed. Fifteen years ago today September 11 became more than just another date on the calendar.
My September 11 story is a small one, and not unlike those across the globe. I received a phone call, and turned on the news. I sank to my knees in front of the television and watched in horror as the unimaginable events unfolded one after another before my eyes.
Like so many others with family and friends living and working in the vicinity of the twin towers, I waited for news. As I sat there watching the unimaginable, I knew that without a doubt, everything was about to change.
I was not in New York on September 11. I was living five hundred miles to the south – just outside the largest US Army installation in the world, home of the 82 Airborne and US Special Operations Command – Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
I had been an Army wife for just three years. Most of those three years were at various training commands, where the largest concerns were training injuries and wives were inundated with the more trivial aspects of the social side of being the spouse of a soldier.
September 10, we were an Army at peace. September 11, we were an Army in shock. September 12, we were an Army preparing for war.
My September 11 story began when my husband returned from work that day. One of those soldiers preparing for war. That morning, I was the spouse of a peacetime soldier. That evening, I knew that my husband was going to war.
On September 10, Fort Bragg, like most installations, was an open post. The guards and fences which are now so ubiquitous were not there. It was so open that a major highway ran through the center of it. On September 12, that changed. They were preparing for war. Units were on alert. Soldiers patrolled the base. Uncertain about what could be coming next, the post was closed to the public. That morning, my husband left for work at the same time he always did. He phoned at lunch to let me know that he still hadn’t made it on to post. Security measures were so tight, that although we lived less than a mile away, five hours later he still hadn’t arrived at work.
It was two weeks before I entered Fort Bragg. It was hard not to notice how things had changed. Temporary guard shelters had been added to the post entrance, moveable barriers protected the buildings, and streets that had been open were now permanently closed.
The following month, we were officially at war. We left Fort Bragg the following spring. My husband was assigned to a unit that would deploy several times during our two years there. The first deployment after my husband drove away, I lay down on the bed and cried. I wondered if I would ever see him again, or if I would need to stand stoically by as a soldier in dress blues handed me a carefully folded flag.
Life as an Army spouse changed. The spouses groups were no longer frivolous – they were lifelines, information conduits, support groups. These were the people who held your hands as your husband boarded a bus to the unknown. These were the people who sat next to you at informational briefings during deployments. These were the people who understood exactly how hard it was to breathe while your spouse was somewhere over there.
Fifteen years ago today we lost 2996 individuals in the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, and in a field in rural Pennsylvania.
In the fifteen years since, we have lost untold numbers, military and civilian in conflicts and terror attacks across the globe.
Each September 11, I pause and remember. I remember the lives that were lost that day. I remember the way my world changed. I remember the lives we have lost since, and I say a prayer of gratitude that my husband was one of the ones who came home.
If you’d like a more in-depth look at how life changed for Army spouses, I recommend reading Under The Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank